Nicolas Schöffer

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Nicolas Schöffer (Hungarian: Schöffer Miklós; September 6, 1912 — January 8, 1992) was a Hungarian-born French artist. He can be considered as the father of cybernetic art. He was born in Kalocsa, Austria-Hungary and resided in Paris from 1936 till his death in his Montmartre atelier in 1992. His career touched on painting, kinetic sculpture, architecture, urbanism, film, TV, and music. Indeed he collaborated on music with Pierre Henry. All of the artistic actions of Schöffer were done in the pursuit of a dynamism in art.

This interest in artistic dynamism was originally initiated by the Cubo-Futurists and then intensified and solidified by the Russian Constructivism artists, such as Naum Gabo, Anton Pevsner, Moholy-Nagy and Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack. All these artists were concerned with opening up the static three-dimensional sculptural form to a fourth dimension of time and motion. And this was the intention of Schöffer as well.

Schöffer however, coming well after, benefited from cybernetic theories (theories of feedback systems (interactivity) primarily based on the ideas of Norbert Wiener (1894–1964)) in that they suggested to him artistic processes in terms of the organization of the system manifesting it (e.g., the circular causality of feedback-loops). For Schöffer, this enabled cybernetics to elucidate complex artistic relationships from within the work itself.

His CYSP 1 (1956) is considered the first cybernetic sculpture in art history in that it made use of electronic computations as developed by the Philips Company. The sculpture is set on a base mounted on four rollers, which contains the mechanism and the electronic brain. The plates are operated by small motors located under their axis. Photo-electric cells and a microphone built into the sculpture catch all the variations in the fields of color, light intensity and sound intensity. All these changes occasion reactions on the part of the sculpture.

Consequently his kinetic sculptural compositions were able to parallel the work of Warren McCulloch and his adaptation of cybernetics in formulating a creative epistemology concerned with the self-communication within an observer's psyche and between the psyche and the surrounding environment. This is the primary usefulness of cybernetics in studying the supposed subject/object polarity in terms of artistic experience.

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External links[edit]

  • Nicolas Schöffer
  • Nicolas Schöffer exhibition
  • Images of his studio
  • [1] Nicolas Schöffer exhibition Précurseur de l’art cybernétique at Espace Gantner: Espace EDF Electra (Paris) reviewed by Joseph Nechvatal for The Thing (art project)
  • [2] Sound recordings from Schöffer’s spatiodynamic sculptures sourced from the DVD of an exhibition at Espace Gantner, France, 2004, titled Précurseur de l’art cybernétique, as well as various internet videos. The Lumino and Microtemps, 1968 and 1961 respectively, were not intended as sound sculptures, yet the noises they produce are definitely part of their appeal, not unlike Jean Tinguely’s machines.